Throughout the novel, Kari vehemently opposes any attempts at the internalization of femininity. Reading it felt like someone had ripped their soul out to show me, and not just in words but in pictures. Kari therefore takes on the role of a boatman who goes through society and its oppressive structures while at the same time coming to terms with her own sexuality. To view it, click here.
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The first frame is a picture of Kari and her girlfriend, something very similar to The Two Fridas, a painting by Frida Kahlo. Using this painting as metaphor for the break-up, Kari starts her story by describing how Ruth had left her — ready to jump off a cliff, but no safety net to save her.
She falls into a sewer, and emerges — stinking, but intact and alive. The dirty sewer also brings us to the theme of the Great Recession of in the story, which is emphasised by the presence of mostly black and white frames in the book.
The plot then begins its journey through the timelines of the past and present, and this movement is not demarcated by separate headings, but through the presence of certain characters and objects. The novel puts Kari in different situations, and it moves as a personal view of her experiences, rich with her emotions throughout the text and the pictures in the novel.
Kari continuously struggles to grapple with her identity in these different situations — when her mother questions her about Ruth, her experience with her roommates and their boyfriends, defining a space for herself in the constantly busy and running world, and her boss, Angel, who is shown suffering from cancer, and later, dies of it. Kari is shown to share a very intimate space with Ruth — there are frames where they are nude together.
The conversations they have also seem to be bringing up one of the other main question the text seems to be grappling with — the question of identity.
In the novel, Kari and through her, Amruta Patil, as she mentions in her interviews struggles with identifying herself with the different roles she plays. This time, there is no gutter to save her. Unlike Ruth, no safety net saves or or there is no plane to whisk her away.
This brings in the idea of class divides in a relationship. The symbol of the gutter brings in the theme of the recession that was happening in the background as Patil penned Kari. The black and white frames, with the occasional colored frames seem to bring to stark reality the black and white lives of the people who struggled a lot at the time of the recession.
Kari: A Graphic Novel About Lesbianism and Big-City Love
KARI AMRUTA PATIL PDF